Search engine optimisation for independent opticians
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If you want people to find you and book in without any sales effort, advertising or other palava ..

.. you need to be discoverable. That's SEO. Here's how Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) works for independent opticians

When people want to find a new optician of course they may be tempted in to the practice when they walk past it on the street, but increasingly they look for recommendations online.

One popular way would be simply to search for "optician {your town}". Scarborough (North Yorkshire, UK) where I live has a population of about 60,000 people and Google reports 140 such searches per month, so roughly a quarter of a percent per month, you can extrapolate that for your catchment.

If you were top of Google for that search term, you might expect 40% of those people to visit your website, and after that whether they call you, email you, book online or leave and go somewhere else, that's down to your conversion rate. If you get 1 in 5 to book an appointment, and say your average client value is £200 per year for 10 years, then being at the top of Google is worth 140 x .4 x .2 x £2000 = £22,400 per month in turnover after 10 years if you serve a town of 60,000 population.

You may argue that above the natural search results are, actually, a lot of things. First, pay per click (PPC) ads, usually dominated by the nationals. You can appear there, I'll write about how another time (I run PPC campaigns, get in touch if you like).

Also above what we call the 'natural' search results is often a local Google Maps stack which is partly driven by geography.

Nowadays .. about half of people visiting your website are probably using a mobile phone or tablet computer equipped with GPS that provides a very accurate position, and if they just type in "optician" or "local optician" or "optician near me" Google will give added weight to nearness in their decision which opticians practice to show in the search results.

Imagine the scenario where a visitor to a town has just sat on his glasses and wants them fixing before his meeting/the wedding, he needs the nearest optician. I know that's little use to you financially but Google is there to serve its users first and that's the thinking behind the location and mapping search services.

Let's just look at the other way many people will search for a new optician: they'll ask their friends in Facebook. Facebook has even optimised for this, sensing when people are looking for recommendations and bringing up a location map.

It's worth considering getting into the heads of these people who are looking for a new optician. Personally, I like quality service, am demotivated by cheapness, and I came to glasses gradually .. I had a couple of eye tests before being convinced I'd reached 'that age', it was quite a wrench. I'm not normal, most people want value for money, so are motivated by a deal or offer. The quality of your service, while it should be there, is something people should experience so that they do value it, and you have to get them in first. These people are at the early stages of getting to know you, so I would advise a light touch, clean offers, and ..

.. good reviews. Some people will be moving because they have had a bad experience at another optician, so reviews are important. Star ratings can appear in your Google results, so that can help people click through to you in search, and they can appear in Facebook too.

It's worth mentioning that Facebook has a perfectly good search function. If I type in 'scarborough optician' it provides me with two opticians' details along with their star ratings.

(I resell the top service for encouraging and managing your reviews, get in touch if you are interested.)

So how do you get to the top of search? How do you do SEO?

First, it's worth getting someone like me to do a 'hygiene' check. There are some technical issues that will scupper any efforts at SEO, so they need checking first. Most can be fixed quite quickly .. I've found internal pages erroneously listed on Google, 'duplicate content' is a big problem, and not being mobile optimised will increasingly lower you in the search results.

Next we can make relatively easy changes to your website. It's worth checking what each page is actually about and making it more specific. The Page Title is what appears right at the very top of the browser, the meta description usually appears as the description in your search results .. both should include the search term you are optimising for (each page should be allocated target search terms) because they get highlighted in search. Descriptions should also be motivating to humans, since that's what they see in search and Google will raise in search those results that people click on and that satisfy (ie. people who click don't come back to Google after 10 seconds and click the next result).

After that, we're getting into the longer, more ongoing job of link building and content creation.

Google 'won' the search engine battle with its idea that a good web page is one that people are linking to. Links are like votes.

So to get high on Google, you need websites to link to you.

For this, we need to get creative .. how about offering a discount code for local neighbourhood watch groups?

My favourite starting point is, funnily enough, my own software which I wrote because I couldn't find anything that did what I want. Hopefully you have a Twitter account, but if not you can run a report about your competitor and steal their audience.

The Twitter Growbot takes about 24 hours to analyse who else the people who follow you follow. Is your audience at the golf club? Do they go to the theatre? Do they eat at a particular restaurant? Is there an influential blogger in town?

Once you have that list, and it will be a long list, the task is to get in touch and make some sort of arrangement and get a link back to your website. That shouldn't be paid for, that's outlawed, but you could offer a discount or support a charity, or in the case of a restaurant you might perhaps be able to sponsor their menu.

The other way is through content marketing. Here, what's required is genuinely informative, generous of spirit content that helps people to like you and want more from you. Obviously everyone's first inclination is to write about your facilities and your people and yes, that's step one, but I suggest that you might find in the Twitter Growbot a local artist who could provide an entertaining slant, an angle. A photographer. A songwriter. A poet. An illustrator. Cartoonist. Animator. Storyteller. I recognise that's a stretch, but if you want to be top of Google, stand out content is worth having. It's worth asking an artist or creative "how could you help us?" .. it's their job to come up with the ideas, and the top creative in your Twitter Growbot Report is already liked by your audience.

I can guide you with all that. I'm happy to write your content too if you like.

Hopefully you can see that search engine optimisation is definitely worth doing, that there are some simple one-off things to check at the start, a link generation process to run and some decisions to make about creating new and interesting content. The great thing about content is you can use it here for SEO on your website, but then it gives you something to share on social media, something to send in email to your customers and perhaps even something for the local paper, so it's definitely value for money.

For help with your SEO, get in touch (my contact details are in the footer).

I do cost-effective digital marketing for independent opticians because you have enough to do, so get in touch: email (or call between 9-6pm (UK) 01723 376477) to discuss, no obligation. You may prefer to

Drop me an email to get your free report on how your digital marketing compares to other independent opticians I'm working with. (I'm totally genuine, if it's good I'll applaud you :-) )

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